A New Pope

In case you’ve been blissfully isolated from all news* for the past few weeks, you know that the previous pope stepped down and that there is a new pope—Pope Francis.

The way that I titled this post is a nod to the title of the first Star Wars film. Tragically, I could not work a reasonable way to title it: “Star Wars: A New Pope,” so you’ll have to be satisfied with the second part alone.

Formerly Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis is being very vocally hailed as a “fresh face” and “new hope” for the Roman Catholic Church.

The fresh face of the Vatican.

At the risk of sounding immensely ageist, I have to say that, despite knowing some awesome old people, I have never really thought of celibate clergymen in their late seventies as “fresh faces” or sources of much of anything new.

Pope Francis made a bit of news for paying his own hotel bill and declining to sit on a throne while the cardinals lined up and declared their allegiance to him. Aside from an appearance of humility (though, really, how humble can one be while religious leaders from all around the world kneel and confirm that they answer you) and kind of setting aside the biggest perks of being the pope, Pope Francis’ atypical behavior has distracted from more important information about him.

Namely, his battle against marriage equality and same-sex adoption.

I do not care how many feet he washes (though that is super gross—I don’t even like touching my own feet, and they are quite clean), his opposition to fundamental rights of a portion of society is not acceptable. This is not okay, and it should not be overlooked.

The new pope was always going to be opposed to marriage equality and to female reproductive rights. That a pope was selected who was already known for having fought tooth and nail against his own country’s legal recognition of same-sex marriage and against their efforts to provide free contraception . . . well, that says something about the priorities of the conclave.

More worrisome is some of the language that Pope Francis, as a Cardinal, used to voice his opposition. In addition to the usual arguments about same-sex marriage “opposing God’s plan for humanity” and generally harming society (somehow) and how children need a mother and a father (for whatever reason), he also stated that Satan himself was the true source behind Argentina’s marriage equality campaign and perhaps all same-sex marriage.

Seriously. Read some interviews. Read his Wikipedia page (which is a bit more flattering than it was a couple of weeks ago). He does not seem to be a pope about whom we should become excited.

 

*By which I also mean social media, as even online news sources tend to be a little slow to report some stories—I mean, I learn about earthquakes in LA because Nickelodeon stars tweet about it, not because CNN tweets the same information two entire minutes later.



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What Is Up With The Pope Lately?

If you’ve read anything about the pope recently, you have probably read about him talking about same-sex marriage. He talks about it a lot. And at weird times. The pope is using just about every major speaking opportunity to emphasize his opposition to same-sex marriage. And, while I know that that’s his position, it’s weirding me out.

What’s strange to me is not that the pope’s stance is exclusively for opposite-sex marriage. The Catholic church, which has survived for over 1,500 years, has historically been slow to change its views but it has changed them. It will change them again, over the next century or so, if it intends to survive as an institution (which will be interesting to watch, either way). In 2113, will we see a female pope, married priests, and same-sex marriages performed with the blessing of the Vatican? Possibly. I doubt that it will be that soon. But, since I intend to live forever and the science for it seems almost within reach, it should happen in my lifetime.

So, I get it. Right now, the Catholic Church is opposed to marriage equality, and they do not care for the trend in parts of the US and Europe of same-sex couples receiving rights and privileges just like heterosexual couples.

What I do not understand is why Pope Benedict seems determined to bring it up at every occasion, particularly when there are much more pressing issues (school shootings and other instances of gun violence, anyone?) that he might be addressing. Like, does he know that it makes many people who otherwise like him uncomfortable (there are plenty of anti-choice people who support gay rights). Is he just pulling a Kathy Griffin and bringing up what he’s been advised against mentioning because it’s entertaining to him?

I’m going to go with no. I think that he is trying to double-down on his position. Which I understand—supporting your ideals, even when they’re the worst, makes sense. Practically speaking, it’s not doing Catholicism any favors in the long-run. And while he makes ridiculous comparisons (same-sex marriage “deceives human nature” and other statements), they’re consistent with the Vatican position on the topic.

It’s unfortunate for a lot of reasons, but we can all take comfort in the fact that he’s not just on the wrong side of history on this—he’s on the losing side. Latino voters within the US, the majority of whom are Catholic, voted for Obama and support same-sex marriage. Europe, where Catholicism is even more prevalent, is pushing forward with marriage equality, nation after nation.

Eventually, when the dust settles and marriage equality here to stay in the West (the Middle-East and Africa, in particular, are going to take a while), we can expect to hear about it less from the Vatican. Until then, expect a lot more of the pope’s public addresses to label female reproductive autonomy a “threat to world peace” and marriage equality as a “lie.”



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